Perhaps you have had the experience of answering a phone and the person calling begins his conversation by saying something like, “Hello, this is Jeff Maxim speaking.” Or perhaps you have been out of sight of someone and called to them and said, “Hey, this is Bob speaking.” The point is, that it is not an uncommon interjection to let someone know exactly who is speaking. It is very helpful for us to know who is speaking to us.
I’ve had the experience of answering the phone and the one on the other end gives me a hearty greeting without stating their name, expecting that I would recognize their voice. Realizing they had every expectation that I recognized their voice, they went headlong into a conversation. But while trying to carry on a conversation, my mind would be searching my memory banks as to who exactly this person was with whom I was now engaged. Sometimes, after a bit, it would dawn on me, “Oh, this is Fred” or “this is Jack” and, sure enough, I should have recognized their voice. But there have been times I have had to interrupt the conversation with the question, “Who exactly am I speaking to?” At times this can be embarrassing. But one thing is certain, we cannot get out of a conversation what we need to get unless we know who it is that is speaking.
Perhaps the greatest distinction that can be made between God and all false deities is that God speaks. The very God who spoke the world into existence, and who has revealed himself in that creation, is the very God who has revealed himself through the spoken word, i.e. language. All other “gods” are mute. The real God “speaks”.
Jeremiah 10:2-5a highlights this: “Thus says the LORD: ‘Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak… ’”
When a Christian comes to church, he needs to know who it is who is speaking to him. I hope nobody comes to Berean Baptist Church with the thought that “I’m going to hear Terry speak”. If you have come to hear me speak, you’ll be sorely disappointed, and the exercise will be of little or no benefit to you.
I subscribe to the old Puritan maxim; “I cannot pray but that I sin. I cannot preach but that I sin. My repentance needs repenting of.” I have never preached a “sinless sermon”. Almost every Sunday, early in the morning as I walk through a darkened and empty church to pray, I will say something like this: “Lord, whatever is in this sermon that is wrong, inaccurate, untrue, or unhelpful, I pray those words would fall to the earth and not land in the hearts of your people. But Lord, impress upon the hearts of your people the words that are correctly communicated from Scripture. And only as I faithfully communicate your eternal truth, speak to your people. May all else be unheard and forgotten.”
When we come to church, we need to hear and know that God is speaking. That can only be true as those who preach do so exegetically and expositionally. Nobody needs to hear what Terry McIntosh thinks about anything. But everyone needs to know what God thinks about everything. And only as one who stands to speak for God, faithfully delivers the truth of any given text can he claim to be speaking for God. I don’t care what Joel Osteen has to say. I don’t care what Joyce Meyer has to say. For that matter, I don’t care what John Piper has to say, or Mark Dever, or John MacArthur. I only care what the Word says because THAT is God speaking.
I Peter 4:10-11 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God.” In this passage encouraging the use of spiritual gifts, Peter admonishes that anyone exercising a “speaking gift” should do so as the oracle of God. An oracle is a mouthpiece or one that delivers a message from God. One can only do that as he preaches the text according to a literal, grammatical, and historical method of interpretation unfolding authorial intent. In other words, the writer of the text had an intended meaning to communicate. To that end the “oracle” or speaker for God, needs to discern that intent.
This is the difference between preachers that “use” the Bible to legitimize their own message and the preacher that faithfully proclaims Gods’ message. Far too many “preachers” look at a text and say, “What can I say about this text?” From that, the imagination of that preacher takes flight and does not necessarily reflect that text in any remote way. An expositional preacher asks, “What does this text say?” He then strives to discern what it says, and then communicate it to those to whom he is speaking.
When listening to messages, we need to know if it is the preacher speaking or God speaking. I don’t know about you, but when I listen to a sermon, I want the preacher to be able to say, “Hello…this is God speaking.”